Last November a group of thirteen Sri Chinmoy „Peace Runners“ (and long-time veggie-adepts) started making their way up to the top of Africa – Mount Kilimanjaro. “Mount Kili” is with 5.885 meters the highest elevation of the continent. Vasanti, who has been involved in the the Peace Run since its beginnings in 1987 and a vegetarian since 1981, recounts the event like this:
Climbing Mount Kili via the „easy“ Marangu route (sleeping in huts instead of tents) in 6 days, including one acclimatisation day on Horombo hut at 3700 m, was an absolutely amazing experience – even for those who did not make it all the way up.
It is more of a hike, you don`t have to be a climber and not even super-fit, but the altitude can be challenging, and you can be at the mercy of the weather. My father did it when he was 3 years older than me at 59, with less training and still as a smoker, so I thought I might have a realistic chance.
Our group from several parts of the world (USA, UK, Latvia, Germany, Austria, Switherland, Hungary and Ethiopia) carried with them the peace torch of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run – which had just visited a number of schools in the Arusha region – and nine participants from our team actually reached the top summit, Uhuru point. Two others managed to climb up to “Stella-Point” which is 200 m lower on the crater rim but already gets you a Kilimanjaro certificate. On summit day, one team member and even one guide had to stay back, and I had to stop after 3 hours climbing up the crater in the cold night at 5300 m due to altitude problems – my breath and pulse were just getting too fast. I was absolutely happy to turn round, better safe then sorry, confident that most of the team including our African climber Aklilu would make it and carry the torch all the way up, and looking forward to welcoming the exhausted summit climbers back at Kibu hut the next day with a nice garland.
Climbing Kili as a vegetarian group was no problem at all. The tour operator knew our needs, and we were served great fresh food at least twice a day, always freshly prepared by skilled cooks, including salads, vegetables, fruits like pineapple, mangoes and watermelon, potatoes, beans, rice, grains, soups, eggs and more – with lunch boxes on some of the days. The porters had done an incredible job carrying everything up! Interestingly, above 4000 metres, no milk even in our tea or coffee was allowed to ensure proper breathing! The weather was amazing – apart from the first day where rain and thunder and snow higher up greeted us and made summiting impossible for thus waiting at the crater. Porters and Guides said, the Kili-gods felt the peace in our hearts and granted us sunshine and no wind for the rest of our adventure.
Climate change, however, is clearly visible and felt at Kilimanjaro, too. The snow cover and glaciers are receding and the whole Kilimanjaro area is getting more arid – a huge problem for the local population. Hopefully our climb is helping a tiny bit to spread the message of peaceful veggie-power!
Fotocredits: © Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team